Oficina Brennand – Recife

I was looking at a tourism magazine from Recife called Recife Te Quer, from January of 2008 that a good friend sent me via mail a few years back and I found a really cool building with suggestive sculptures called Oficina Brennand. What follows is a bit on the location and the Pernambucan artist behind it, which I borrowed and translated from the official site. First, a few words on the artist Francisco Brennard, by acclaimed novelist Jorge Amado.

“Today he is unique – him and only him – a Brazilian artist with an assured place in the club of the principal (artists) of contemporary art. Of such importance, that alone he proclaims the universality of Brazilian art.”

Oficina Brennand

The Oficina Brennand came about in 1971 in the ruins of the ceramic factory dating back to the beginning of the 20th century, as a materialization of recalcitrant project of the artist Francisco Brennard. An old brick and roofing factory inherited by his father, installed on a piece of property called Santos Cosme and Damião, it lies in the historic neighborhood of Várzea, surrounded by what remains of the Atlantic Forest and on the waters of the Capibaribe river. The ceramics of São João (the former sugar plantation where the current property lies) became the inspiring source and depository of the story of the Pernambucan artist.

A unique place in the world, the Oficina Brennand can be found in a monumental architectural conjunct of originality, in a constant process of mutation, where the works associate themselves with the architecture to give form to subterranean, dark, sexual, religious, wild and abyssal universe.

The presence of the artist in his continuous work of creation gives the Oficina a daring character, identifying it as an intrinsically alive institution and with a dynamic that leaves the future of the project a mystery, even to the one who is creating it.

Visitation hours are from 8AM to 5PM, from Monday to Thursday and 8AM to 4PM on Friday. The admission fee is R$4.

Trancoso – Where you pay a lot to have a little

“The sun was blazing at the Tostex beach club in Bahia, Brazil, and the tanned and toned partygoers were lounging on rustic queen-size beds, fighting off the unrelenting mosquitoes on an otherwise lazy day. A scruffy D.J. from São Paulo who went by the name Julião swayed in his thatch-roofed booth and cranked up a funky remix of Laurent Garnier’s saxophone-infused song “The Man With the Red Face.”

The sculptured 20- and 30-somethings — models and actors sprinkled in with São Paulo’s elite professionals — sipped colored martinis and bronzed on leopard-print pillows, as gentle Bahian breezes tickled their skin. Few flinched as a steady stream of private planes and helicopters zipped above the water.

It was another picture-perfect day in Trancoso, a former fishing village that has turned into a super-trendy getaway for Brazilians and fashionable jet-setters willing to pay St.-Tropez prices for rustic accommodations on an unspoiled beach.

Situated on the palm-fringed coast of Brazil’s Bahia state, Trancoso still looks like the hippie getaway that first made the town popular 20 years ago, with its uneven cobblestone streets and dirt roads. Colorfully painted low-rise wooden houses are the norm, even those that now sell $35 wineglasses and $3,000 paintings.” – NYT (more here)

That’s quite funny to me. Making people pay a lot (one night in a ‘local’ hotel can run you R$850) to have a little. There are probably hundreds of Trancosos along the Brazilian coastline, the only difference here is the poor aren’t welcome. 

Cajuína – The famous little drink from Piauí

Cajuína is a non-alcoholic, non-carbonated beverage made of blended cashew apples. It is traditional in the northeast region of Brazil, where it is made by hand, especially in the state of Piauí. When processed, it has yellow-amber color resulting from the carmelization of the natural sugars of the juice. Cajuína is a cultural symbol of the capital of Piauí state, Teresina.

On average, 200 ml of cajuína has 62 calories. The production of cajuína is done via the following process:

– Extraction of the cashew juice;
– Filtration;
– Addition of gelatin (to extract the substance that gives the closing feeling in the throat);
– Separation of the tannins;
– Clarification.

The singer and songwriter Caetano Veloso composed a song called “Cajuína“, in which he sings about the drink. In a very charming report (in PT) on the beauty of Piauí done by Record TV, one can see how the famous drink is made (although I highly recommend seeing the entire report by starting here).

By the way, the contagiously happy reporter is Renata Alves from Sergipe who does random reports on Northeastern culture for the shows Câmara Record and Domingo Espetacular.

Secrets, Guarded and Shared

Recently, I read on a tech site that a Facebook group called Secret London got so big, it had to start thinking bigger, meaning it had to become its own site. Secret London is a group of Londoners who share secret spots with each other in an effort to get to know the London that can’t be found through official channels. This London is about who you know because it’s the ‘whos’ that are the ones that know the ‘whats’ and the ‘wheres’. Anyways, a bit of a discussion is going on as to whether taste is best shared or guarded (best to read ‘guarded’ first).

In the same vein as Secret London, you can bet there exists a Secret Brazil, just not in any official capacity. Practically everyone in Rio, for example, has a secret spot or a favorite place to go to think, to see the sunset, to visit on certain days because they know there’s free admission that day, etc.

The interesting thing about taste is that it’s pretty personal. Socially-speaking, it could be said that taste is non-existent as long as others don’t share the same taste. Saying someone has good taste is also saying that you have enough taste to know such a thing. In terms of the masses and in the same sense as the concept of cool, the labeling of something as tasteful also slowly kills it off. In other words, it gets played-out, over-consumed or in the case of a place, over-crowded, etc. Perhaps it can even lead to a broken window.

So here I am, thinking that I’m giving away all my secrets about Brazil by having this blog/site where I am selective about its content. Upon second thought, I then realize that my purpose here is to show the world that Brazil isn’t just made up of the 4 things I virtually never mention here (Carnival, ‘naked women’, soccer and violence). There’s a Brazil that is little talked about and I’ve made it my job to ‘spill the beans’ (or rather the oranges) about the things and places that should be shared.

Where does Laranjeiras, a neighborhood of Rio, fit in? To make a short story long, I have several friends who call the neighborhood ‘home’ and they all say nothing but great things about it. Those who don’t live there but are from the city of Rio, haven’t ever mentioned the neighborhood to me, as if they never gave it any thought. I’ve only been there once so I don’t have much first-hand experience…but when speaking to my friends, I get the feeling Laranjeiras is a bit of a hidden gem, laid-back, upkept, not too crowded…just right.

Here’s a little background.

“Laranjeiras (Portuguese for orange trees) is an upper-middle-class neighborhood located in the Zona Sul area of Rio de Janeiro. Primarily residential, It is one of the city’s oldest neighborhoods, having been founded in the 17th century, with the construction of country houses in the valley located around the Carioca River, which bordered Corcovado Mountain. Because of this, the neighborhood was previously called “Vale do Carioca”, or Carioca Valley.

While primarily residential, several important governmental, cultural, and sports institutions and schools make this a bustling neighborhood. Well known landmarks in Laranjeiras include the Palácio Guanabara (seat of the state government of Rio de Janeiro), the Palácio Laranjeiras (official residence of the state’s governor), and the Parque Guinle (Guinle Park), as well as the headquarters and Laranjeiras Stadium of Fluminense Football Club, and Rio’s branch of the Hebraica Social and Sports Club, and several others.

Well-known people that live, or have lived in Laranjeiras include:

  • Cartola, singer, composer and poet
  • Cássia Eller, singer
  • Cândido Portinari, pintor
  • Oscar Niemeyer, arquiteto
  • Machado de Assis, writer.”

– Wikipedia

A lot of history happened in and nearby the ‘Vale do Carioca’, as the region encompassing modern-day Glória, Catete and Laranjeiras once was called. The Vale’s claim to fame comes from the fact that the land used to build the first Portuguese house on Brazilian soil (the ‘house of whites’ where the term ‘carioca’ comes from) was built there where a little later, the failed French colony called the ‘French Antartica’ (lasting from 1555 to 1567) was founded. If the French and their indian counterparts (the Tamoios, with whom they traded and joined in an effort to fight off the Portuguese) had secured Guanabara Bay, today Rio, and all of Brazil for that matter, might be full of French descendents. Think that is far-fetched? A half of a century later, the French had control over the northern state of Maranhão, where its capital São Luis is named after King Louis IX. During the time of the two South American French colonies, France was after its fair share of the Americas (especially after taking Quebec in Canada), an effort they aptly called ‘Nouvelle France’.

As for the name Laranjeiras, it was said to have been bestowed upon the neighborhood by the visiting English author Maria Graham in 1821. She stated there were many orange trees in the area although today there is more evidence to the contrary, that there were many more coffee plants than orange trees back then. Besides, Laranjeiras was the name of a beach, albeit absent of orange trees, near Parati. The theory is that somewhere in the neighborhood of Laranjeiras in Lisbon (which had a garden orchard) lies the origins of its carioca cousin.

I’ll leave you with some photos.

Freebies, Links & Cybercafes in Belém

While I close out my Eyes On Belém site, here’s some content that someone may find of use one day.

What to do for free/Coisas pra fazer de graça


A Walk in the Utinga Park/Caminhada no parque ambiental do Utinga
It’s worth it to get to know the Bolonha lake and all of the shades of green that surrounds it. Vale a pena conhecer o lago Bolonha e o tanto de verde que existe por lá.

Open from Monday to Saturday but given that on Mondays, the Emilio Goeldi Museum and the Rodrigues Alves Forest are closed, it would be a good thing to do on this day. De segunda a sábado…mas como segunda-feira o Goeldi e o Rodrigues Alves estão fechados, seria uma boa programação para esse dia.

Location/Local: Perto da Castanheira.
Time/Hora: 8AM to …anyone know?/das 8 até ..alguém sabe?.

Timbers of the Amazon/Timbres da Amazônia
Presentation of instrumental music produced by artists from Pará. Apresentação de música instrumental produzida por artistas paraenses.

Location/Local: Capela do São José Liberto
Time/Hora: Starts at 6PM/a partir das 18h

Egret Mangrove/Mangal das Garças
Ecological area with aviary, exhibits and lookout over the river. Um complexo turístico com quatro espaços de visita monitorada que lhe permitem uma aproximação maior com a natureza.

Location/Local: Passagem Carneiro da Rocha, Arsenal
Hours/Hora: 7AM to 5PM (external areas) and from 9AM to 5PM (monitored areas)/das 7h às 17h (área externa) e das 9h às 17h (espaços monitorados)

Theater of Peace/Theatro da Paz
Neoclassical theater from the golden era of the rubber boom. O maior teatro da Região Norte e um dos mais luxuosos do Brasil, com cerca de 130 anos de história.

Location/Local: Rua da Paz s/n, Praça da República, Campina, Nazaré
Hours/Hora: Guided visits on the hour, from 9AM to 1PM. Visitação guiada de hora em hora, das 9h às 13h.

Celebration of the sunset with a presentation of popular groups from Pará. Celebração ao pôr-do-sol com apresentação de grupos da cultura popular paraense.

Location/Local: Orla da Estação das Docas
Time/Hora: Starts at 6PM/a partir das 18h

Open Rehearsal/Ensaio Aberto
Presentation of independent bands/artists from local music scene. Apresentação de bandas/artistas independentes do cenário paraense.

Location/Local: Espaço cultural da loja Ná Figueredo da Gentil
Time/Hora: 5PM/17h00

The Artisan Fair/A Feira de Artesanato

The Fair is considered a cultural heritage point in Belém and has been operating for over 20 years along the sidewalks of the Praça da República. A Feira é considerada Patrimônio Cultural de Belém e acontece há mais de 20 anos ao longo das calçadas da Praça da República.

Location/Local: Republic Plaza/Praça da República
Time/Hora: From 8AM to 2PM/a partir das 8h00 e até as 14h (se não me engano)

Sunset Theater/Teatro ao Pôr-do-Sol
Presentation of theatrical shows involving popular culture & Amazonian legends. Apresentação de espetáculos teatrais voltados para a cultura popular e lendas amazônicas.

Location/Local: Anfiteatro da Estação das Docas
Time/Hora: 5:30PM/17h30

Links on Belém

A quick apology to English-speakers looking for links on Belém in English. Aside from Wikipedia, they just don’t exist.




Cyber Cafes

Upon arrival in Belém, it can be a bit hard to locate free wi-fi hotspots and cybercafes so this page will be dedicated to the latter.

Ao chegar em Belém, pode achar um pouco difícil localizar pontos de internet sem-fio e grátis e LAN houses também então vou dedicar esta página para o citado em segundo lugar.

Batista Campos

Canal 13 Informática
Avenida Serzedelo Corrêa, 1000, LJ 2, Belém – PA


Avenida Presidente Vargas, 882, SL F, Belém – PA

Rua Conselheiro João Alfredo, 357, Belém – PA

Cidade Velha

Empório Saber Café
Rua Ângelo Custódio, 85, LJ A TO, Belém – PA


Snippers Lan House
Av José Bonifácio, 2146, Belém – PA

Rua Augusto Corrêa, 1, BL D, Belém – PA


Al Cyber Games
Alameda Providência, 19, Belém – PA


Avenida Duque de Caxias, 219, Terreo B, Belém – PA

Universal Informática Ltda
Avenida Primeiro de Dezembro, 962, Belém – PA
Barrio: Março


Equant Brasil Ltda
Avenida Governador José Malcher, 815, S 201, Belém – PA


Qgweb Lan House Internet
Avenida Marquês de Herval, 2547, Belém – PA


Lan House F4
Travessa Barão do Triunfo, 907, C F, Belém – PA


Pesquisa Pronta
Travessa Dom Romualdo de Seixas, 823, Belém – PA

Information pulled from Catálogo Fácil.

Bezerros: Creative Capital of Pernambuco

Recife Guide did a feature on the city of Bezerros in the interior of Pernambuco (about 50 min from Recife). Judging by the photos alone, it looks like a great place to be! Of special note is the Papangu Carnival and the Serra Negra region. Check out the link to know more!

For a peak at the Carnival there, see the photo slideshow below from photographer Jose Alves Gonçalves (with a song by Lenine called “Leão do Norte”).

Whats the best beach in Rio?

First take a look at this picture to get a sense of what you’ll see when approaching Prainha.

It really comes down to personal preference when trying to decide which is the best beach in Rio, although I usually keep hearing the same answer to that question. Many have told me time and time again that Prainha is ‘where its at’.

Prainha is said to be one of the prettiest beaches of the Rio that most people pass up. The majority of those who frequent this beach are surfers as the best waves in Rio are found there. As the name says, Prainha is small and squeezed in between the sea and the mountains (which the picture above doesn´t fully show). The website RioOn has a wider variety of shots.

To arrive at Prainha, one must pass through Barra, Recreio and Praia da Macumba yet it is not as far as what is considered Rio´s last beach, Grumari. If you are looking for peace and quiet, try making your trip out there on any given weekday.

Mosqueiro Island – Great in the late summer

Ilha do Mosqueiro is about 40 miles from Belém and can be reached via the BR-316 and the PA-391 highways and finally by crossing the Sebastião Oliveira bridge. By car, it’s no more than an hour away and buses leave Belém daily to the island (with a comparable arrival time). To get an idea of where it is, check out these maps on the official site.

Altogether, there are 16 beaches and in the month of July, around 300,000 people from all over Brazil visit the island for its non-salty waters and summer parties. The original holiday-goers were foreigners which, while taking advantage of the Rubber Boom at the end of the 19th century, found value in the island and started to build summer mansions there.

Judging by the photo up top, if you want peace and quiet, Praia do Farol is not what you are looking for, so try the maps to see where other beaches are on the island. I’ll leave you with a little piece of the peaceful part.

(the original song is from Jorge Drexler, called La Edad del Cielo)

Praia do Forte – Getting out of Salvador

(photo: by Michael Reckling)

Praia do Forte is a little over one hour north of Salvador and doubles as a fishing town and an eco-resort. Judging by the pictures of the area, it seems reminiscent of São Sebastião on the coast of São Paulo, only the water looks better. One can find the official site here (in PT, photos from the site) with a list of all the things one can do there, such as swimming in natural pools, relaxing on the various beaches, visiting the Garcia D’Ávila Castle or the Fisherman’s village.

Also between June and October, many whales pass through the Brazilian waters off the coast and for that reason, Praia do Forte has a whale conservation center called the Baleia Jubarte Institute. If you are looking for something a little smaller, check out the Project Tamar which showcases the four kinds of marine turtles that lay their eggs on the local beach. In the case you want to do some hiking, the Sapiranga Reserve nearby comes highly recommended.

To get an idea of how Praia do Forte is situated, see this colorful map. To find out how to get there, check this out (in PT)